Scripture: And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Genesis 46:2-4 ESV
Observation: Having received the heartwarming news that Joseph is alive and well and thriving as governor of Egypt, Jacob is keen to see his son before he dies. Without hesitation, Jacob and his clan leave behind their home in Canaan to resettle in the Goshen (Nile delta), where Joseph will oversee their needs amid a worldwide famine. Along the way, the author tells us that Israel (Jacob) has recurring night visions where the Lord reminds him that he alone is God, the same God of Jacob’s forefathers (verse 3 above). The Lord also commands Jacob not to succumb to fear, for his Spirit will stay with Jacob in this foreign land, and Joseph will close his eyes and bring him back to the Promised Land (verse 4 above). As this epic story ends, Joseph indeed closes his father’s eyes at his passing and brings his embalmed body to Canaan, entombing him at the burial site that Abraham purchased (chapter 50).
Takeaway: Aged with fading faculties, only his desire to see his once thought dead son could motivate Jacob to face his fear of the unknown and resettle in a foreign land. Along the journey, God repeatedly appears to Jacob in a vision to instill in his mind that he is with Jacob and that Jacob will rest in peace these last days. For those who have transitioned to old age, the reality of the fewer days that remain here on earth is unavoidable. Hence, what most desire is not success or popularity, but peace and security and the loving presence of those dearest to them. And this is what the Lord promised Jacob.
So what does this mean to you and me? Regardless of our age, if we wait until death’s door to seek the presence of God, it may elude us. As the former Director of Pastoral Services at a large Anglican Church, I came alongside the dying elderly and their loved ones to provide comfort and support. Those who had a strong sense of the Lord’s presence consistently managed fearful thoughts that otherwise would rob them of peace. But it takes practice to quiet our spirits in the presence of the Lord. For some, this seems like an impossible task. But if we persevere cooperating with the Holy Spirit, over time, he will transform our thoughts and deepen our understanding of God’s grace and love for us. This process heightens our awareness of our Lord’s presence and ushers in his peace. And the advantage of “practicing the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence once wrote about in his book by the same title, is that we can manage our fears of the unknown throughout our lives resting in Christ’s peace.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who is with us to the very end of the age. And we thank you that he imparts his otherworldly peace to us that calms our fears. Would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit in learning to discern your presence and appropriate your Son’s peace? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling